ST. LOUIS — Cory Patterson has always told his players to make the sacrifices needed to chase their success.
Patterson took his own advice Friday.
It hurt worse than he could have imagined.
Patterson resigned as Trinity Catholic High School's football coach and accepted an assistant coaching position on Lovie Smith's staff at the University of Illinois. Patterson will be the tight ends coach.
Patterson, 37, ends his run as Trinity after five seasons, the last three as its coach. In his first season the Titans were 6-4. They went a combined 21-2 the last two seasons and finished as the Class 2 runner-up in 2016.
This coming fall was by all indications going to be the high point for the program. Under Patterson's direction Trinity will play a loaded schedule that includes dates with East St. Louis, Georgia powerhouse Colquitt County and Elder High School in Cincinnati.
When Trinity puts its name on the national map, Patterson won't be there to see it. He spoke with his entire team Friday afternoon. It left him emotionally raw.
“This was the hardest thing I've ever done in my life,” Patterson said. “It was rough talking to my guys.”
Patterson said he couldn't pass up working for Smith.
“When he first met me he told me I could command a locker room, that I had that charisma,” Patterson said. “We talked again, about aspirations to do something bigger.”
Also on Friday, Lovie Smith confirmed the hiring of Rod Smith as his new offensive coordinator. The hiring was first reported by Mark Tupper of the Pantagraph News Service. Smith comes to the Illini after serving as the co-offensives coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Arizona.
"Rod Smith brings terrific and exciting offensive experience to our staff at Illinois," Lovie Smith said. "His background and development of dual-threat quarterbacks and multiple-threat offenses is the direction we are going here.
"Rod has developed explosive quarterback play and offensive performance at each of his coaching stops."
Lovie Smith still has one assistant coaching position to fill after previously firing cornerbacks coach Paul Williams.